What is it?
Watsu is a water-based therapy used by allied healthcare professionals as well as complimentary and alternative therapists for its many physical and psychological benefits. Developed in the 1980’s by shiatsu practitioner, Harold Dull, it is now practiced the world over. Watsu practitioners, or ‘givers’ (the therapist) study over 3 50-hour courses, to enable them to ‘listen’ to, accept and interpret the individual physical needs of each ‘receiver’ (the client) they encounter.
How does it work?
Watsu is performed in a heated pool. The receiver lies in the water while the giver supports and moves them through the water in a smooth and flowing manner. The giver takes time to connect with the receiver through their breathing. The water’s unique properties of buoyancy, turbulence and drag are used to support or stretch the body as required. Some small floats may or may not be used around the legs, and massage may or may not be included. Since the giver is trained to tailor the session to the needs of the receiver on the day, no two watsu sessions are the same.
We are all becoming more and more aware of the strength and power of the mind-body connection. While there are many types of therapy to address the mind facet of psychological and emotional difficulties, there are few that can do the same for the body facet of our beings. Watsu is a physical alternative or adjunct to talk therapies, allowing the body to free up and let go of any holding or tension. The warm water holds and supports the body, allowing a deep state of relaxation to be reached while also allowing muscles to relax and joints to be unloaded. Movements and stretches can be achieved in a way that is not possible on land, all facilitated by the giver.
Who is it for?
Like other therapies watsu can be for anyone – we all have ‘stuff’ that we store in our bodies. However, it is of particular benefit to those who are going through or have been through difficulties such as stress, anxiety, grief or trauma. Additionally it is used more clinically for those with physical problems such as pain, joint stiffness, muscle spasms or increased muscle tone. Watsu enhances the body’s so-called ‘rest-digest’ system, while quieting the ‘fight and flight’ response resulting in decreased heart rate, decreased respiratory rate, blood centralization and decreased muscle spasm. Longer term benefits may include improved sleep patterns, decreased anxiety, greater decreases in pain, improved digestion and enhanced immune system response.
How does it feel?
Lying in the warm water, with your ears submerged, many have described watsu “like being back in the womb”. Your body is sensitively guided through the water by the practitioner, your eyes are generally closed, and you can hear the soft swishing of the water and your own breathing. Watsu is a wonderful way to help you reconnect with your body and fulfill that mind-body connection that we all need. You might be surprised at the secrets your body is holding on to.